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Animals and animal noises are some of the first sounds toddlers make.

  • Use hand actions when you make the sounds – like a slithering snake ssssss.
  • Take a trip to the zoo or a farm

Word List - Early word acquisition

bear, crocodile, elephant, giraffe, kangaroo, koala, lion, monkey, mouse, owl, tiger, turtle, snake.

Play Themes

Make sure you have some different wild animals and accessories like trees, food, fences, water and zookeepers.  Here are some ideas for play themes to encourage animal related vocabulary.

1. Zoo enclosure

Set up a zoo with enclosures, water troughs, feeding time and a zookeeper and visitors. Put signs on the fences and have the zookeeper drive around feeding the animals. Great way to practice animal sounds and names.

2. Safari

Put some people in a bus/van. The people can walk around the animals and make the sounds. Use some binoculars to look at the animals. Watch out for the scary ones!

3. Vet play

A fun way to develop pretend play skills as well as animal vocabulary. All the animals need to have a bandage or medicine. You can name the animals, body parts and actions.

Toys I Love at Kmart

Zoo animals
Animal puzzle
Wooden animals

Downloads & Worksheets


Kids Books

Books about Zoos are a great addition to your bookshelf.  They are good for copying animal noises (eg. raa, oink) and  animal actions (eg. ‘snake’ action).   This is our recommended list for toddlers and preschoolers learning about animals.    

  • Handa’s Surprise.  A girl goes walking with a basket of fruit on her head.  Little does she know that as she walks the animals have been stealing them!  This is a visually appealing book with a nice steady rhythm and sequence.   Great for preschoolers linking ideas.  Words to Try – monkey, elephant, emu, giraffe.
  • Dear Zoo.  A classic story for very young children to flip the pages over.  A great book for learning som basic animal names but also for using adjectives and linking words (conjunctions).  Words to Try – scary snake, grumpy camel, naughty monkey.
  • Buster’s Zoo .   Another toddler book with animals to touch and feel different textures.
  • DK My First Zoo.  Picture dictionary of lots of different zoo animals. A big range.